Review: Logical Chess
By Irving Chernev (1957, 2002)
I've finished! Last week I played through the final game in Logical Chess--the masterpiece Rubinstein-Maroczy, Gothenburg 1920. After growing accustomed to the book taking up precious space on my desk, bookmark stuck in place, I've finally put it back on the bookshelf. How long did it take me to read? Let's just say that it's been so long that I cannot even remember the year I started reading it--either 2010 or 2011.
The book is an exciting read for a player of my level, 1200-1400 USCF. The games that Chernev selected are relevant to the advanced beginner, games that tend toward classic openings and clear strategic themes. Reading Chernev's annotations is like reading an action novel, watching the give and take, the plans and counter-plans of the two combatants.
More importantly for adult improvers like myself, Chernev seems to have annotated the games specifically for the advanced beginner audience. He states numerous principles of good play in the best possible way--within the annotations of an illustrative game. But one must be ready with pencil in hand to underline the principles and/or take notes in a journal in order to collect them up in one place. There are no chapter or post-game summaries, such as you'll find in a Silman book.
Logical Chess, which contains a total of 33 complete games, is organized into three parts: The Kingside Attack; The Queen's Pawn Opening; and, The Chess Master Explains his Ideas. Each game has a very brief summary that gives clues to the main themes present in the game.
As an example, game number 11, Flohr-Pitschak, Bilin 1930, is introduced as follows: "[The game] is a fascinating illustration of the process of chipping away at the king's guards to impel them to move. Pitschak forces the g-pawn to advance, then the h-pawn, after which he crashes through the barriers with a queen sacrifice."
Game number 11 itself contains a solid 5 pages of annotations. In fact, every move of every game in the book is annotated, hence the subtitle of the book, Every move explained. The annotations lean heavily toward explanation instead of variations, just what an under 1400 needs.
Did the book help me improve? During the several years that it took me to finish, my USCF rating stayed about the same. It started at 1381, dropped down to 1311 and then popped up to an all-time high of 1418 just last month. It is hard to say how much influence the book had on my knowledge level because I played through only one game a month, on average. In reality, I would play through several games and then not pick the book up for months before playing through several more games. That is called binge chess study--not recommended.
One of the weekly cornerstone activities in my new chess study plan is the review of annotated master games, as recommended by Dan Heisman and other chess coaches. If I hadn't just finished this book, I would have selected it as the annotated game collection to kick off my new study plan. (Instead, I have moved on to A First Book of Morphy.)